"I hope that in 50 years we will know the answer to this challenging question: do we live in the aftermath of one big bang among many, just as our solar system is merely one of many planetary systems in our galaxy?"
Sir Martin Rees, Cambridge University, author of The Final Century.
Each year The Futurist Magazine selects the most thought-provoking ideas and forecasts that have appeared in the magazine. The Futurists claims, “Over the years, Outlook has spotlighted the emergence of such epochal developments as the Internet, virtual reality, and the end of the Cold War.”
Here are their editors' top 10 forecasts from Outlook 2008:
A Billion Millionaires
1. The world will have a billion millionaires by 2025. Globalization and technological innovation are driving this increased prosperity. But challenges to prosperity will also become more acute, such as water shortages that will affect two-thirds of world population by 2025.
2. Fashion will go wired as technologies and tastes converge to revolutionize the textile industry. Researchers in smart fabrics and intelligent textiles (SFIT) are working with the fashion industry to bring us color-changing or perfume-emitting jeans, wristwatches that work as digital wallets, and running shoes like the Nike +iPod that watch where you're going.
Cold War II
3. The threat of another cold war with China, Russia, or both could replace as the chief foreign-policy concern of the United States. Scenarios for what a war with China or Russia would look like make the clashes and wars in which the United States is now involved seem insignificant. The power of radical jihadists is trivial compared with Soviet missile capabilities, for instance.
A Cashless Society
4. Counterfeiting of currency will proliferate, driving the move toward a cashless society. Sophisticated new optical scanning technologies could, in the next five years, be a boon for currency counterfeiters, so societies are increasingly putting aside their privacy fears about going cashless. Meanwhile, cashless technologies are improving, making them far easier and safer to use.
5. The earth is on the verge of a significant extinction event. The twenty-first century could witness a biodiversity collapse 100 to 1,000 times greater than any previous extinction since the dawn of humanity, according to the World Resources Institute. Experts contend that incorporating local communities' economic interests into conservation plans will be essential to species protection in the next century.
Water—The New Oil
6. Water will be in the twenty-first century what oil was in the twentieth century. Global fresh water shortages and drought conditions are spreading in both the developed and developing world. In response, the dry state of California is building 13 desalination plants that could provide 10%-20% of the state's water in the next two decades. Desalination will become more mainstream by 2020.
Bigger than Predicted Population
7. World population by 2050 may grow larger than previously expected, due in part to healthier, longer-living people. Slower than expected declines of fertility in developing countries and increasing longevity in richer countries are also contributing to a higher rate of population growth.
Floods in Africa
8. The number of Africans imperiled by floods will grow 70-fold by 2080. The rapid urbanization taking place throughout much of Africa makes flooding particularly dangerous, altering the natural flow of water and cutting off escape routes, which could affect up to 70 million people.
9. Rising prices for natural resources could lead to a full-scale rush to develop the Arctic. Not just oil and natural gas, but also the Arctic's supplies of nickel, copper, zinc, coal, freshwater, forests, and of course fish are highly coveted by the global economy. Whether the Arctic states tighten control over these commodities or find equitable and sustainable ways to share them will be a major political challenge in the decades ahead.
Computers Will Be the Decision Makers
10. More decisions will be made by nonhuman entities. Electronically enabled teams in networks, robots with artificial intelligence, and other noncarbon life-forms will make financial, health, educational, and even political decisions for us. Reason: Technologies are increasing the complexity of our lives and human workers' competency is not keeping pace well enough to avoid disasters due to human error.
Posted by Rebecca Sato
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The Final Century -Video Classic
The "Hawking Solution" -Will Saving Humanity Require Leaving the Planet?
Bigger Threat than Global Warming -Mass Species Extinction
Coming of Age in the Holocene
Robots Rising -Scientists are Worried
Ghost Map -Scientists Unlock Secret of 1918 Pandemic
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